Friday, July 23, 2010

The Transmission of Smoke Offering Practice

The Transmission of Smoke Offering Practice
[A discourse by His Holiness Living Buddha Lian-sheng, Sheng-yen Lu, at the Lunar New Year Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (Guan-Yin) Ceremony at the Ling Shen Ching Tze Temple in Redmond, Washington on February 16, 2008.]

With reverence, we pay homage to Reverend Liaoming, His Eminence Sakya Zhengkong Rinpoche, His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa, Vajra Acharya Thubten Dargye, and the Triple Jewels at the shrine. Ritual Master, Shimu (Master Lianxiang), Acharya/Vajra Masters, Reverends, Dharma Instructors, Dharma Lecturers, Dharma Assistants, fellow school members, students from across the internet, and all our honored guests, auspicious greetings to all of you. (Audience applause.)

First let me address what was just discussed by Mr. Sun, a guest speaker. Actually, he did not talk much, but he did send good wishes to everyone. Although we currently reside in the United States, our thoughts extend not just to Seattle, but also to Taiwan, as well as all beings throughout the world. In Taiwan, candidates from the Blue Party and the Green Party are currently campaigning for president. Now Mr. Sun belongs to the Blue Party. In the Seattle Chinese community, as well as in our group of fellow students, advocates for both parties exist. I have a blue colored dragon vest as well as a green colored dragon vest; but for this reason, I am not wearing either color today. Instead, I am wearing a black and white dragon vest. (Audience applause.)

Anyhow, regardless of one`s position, one should be concerned about their national birth origin as well as one`s current residence. In the future, we should do what we can to repay the communities that have nourished us. (Audience applause.) Putting the politics aside, if one is capable and qualified, we should help that person out. In the eyes of Buddhas, every person is equal. Regardless of which Party a candidate belongs to, our hope is that this person is capable and able to manage the country well. Take Mr. Sun for example, he is the director of a business association and is managing it very well indeed.

We therefore should vote for someone capable who will act in the best interest for the country. The United States is having a presidential election this year. The same principle applies here. We should try our best to fulfill our obligations to serve all beings. This is the first point I want to make.

Secondly, I would like to address what Master Lianbao discussed earlier. He gave many examples of what he thinks ``love`` is dependent on. Love, actually, should not be dependent on anything. ``Love`` is fundamentally non-existent. He was correct in saying that one needs to transform ``egotistical love`` to an ``expansive love.`` But in reality ``love`` does not even exist in the ``expansive`` state. In that state, you simply do everything with your best effort and in good conscience. That is that! What love is there to talk about?

I fancy the thought of speaking to Master Lianbao and informing him that I would like to switch places with him. However there are things he indulges in that I would not. The ``small love,`` ``great love,`` ``old love,`` and ``young love`` he speaks of will lead one very far away from the Buddhas. It may just lead one towards creating a baby. We all know that Master Lianbao is over sixty years old and his new wife is in her twenties. They just had a baby. Wouldn`t you say that this is far from the Buddhas? Nevertheless, the facial features of their child are very remarkable, and I do hope in the future he would take the renunciation vow. If he were to come before me in the future, I won`t even know how old I would be by then. I would do what I could to perform the tonsure rite for him. That would be very close to the Buddhas then. (Grand Master laughter)

Now, about Shimu. Shimu earlier wished everyone good fortune in the year of the Rat. The word ``rat`` in Chinese sounds like the word for ``counting.`` Shimu was wishing everyone wealth to the point that everyone would double over from fatigue ``counting`` their money. She also wished upon everyone the good fortune of a sound night`s sleep and the ability to awaken naturally in the morning.

Yesterday Chen Chuanfang, a student, jokingly made the following comments:
``People in this world do not practice what they say. They all say that they know money cannot be brought into this world or taken from it. Yet, they still love money till they die. Everyone knows that speculating in stocks is dangerous. Yet, they still take the risk and end up tied up like Shanghai hairy crabs. Men know well that mistresses can be home-wreckers. Yet, they continue committing one affair after the other. We are all hypocrites! And most importantly, everyone claims that the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss, Heaven, is the best place to be. Yet, no one wants to go there.``

Since you cannot take money into or out of this world, it would seem sufficient to have enough for this one lifetime. Yet, people love money more than their own lives. They spend all their energy amassing more and more and are never content. It is the same thing with sex. Mr. Sun had wished his gout would improve, but he had also wished he could have more luck with women. (Grand Master laughter) His wife must not be here today. Mr. Sun had referred to Song Xianzheng, a student, whose past romantic interludes I am also aware of. As the Chinese saying goes, ``Womanizing can lead a hero to his tomb.`` Indeed, such things will lead one far away from the Buddhas.

Today I am transmitting the Smoke Offering Practice. A simple explanation of this practice does not take very long. However, if I go into detail, it may take several hours, and we will not be able to finish today`s program on time.

Spiritual practitioners have obstacles just as ordinary people do. Earlier, Mr. Sun had wished that our wishes would come true. This Smoke Offering will help you realize your wishes. Without a proper cleansing, karmic obstacles will manifest and hinder your success. A business deal you are about to sign may suddenly fall through. A marriage may be suddenly called off. You may be a sure bet to become the next president, but for some reason, the opportunity brushes you by. Obstacles exist between you and your goals that come from the human as well as the invisible world. The latter forces are more formidable. We are under the control of invisible forces in the Universe. Your past lives, the relationships and connections that you have forged in this lifetime, your karmic friends, enemies, and creditors -visible or invisible factors exist to bring about your present experiences. Practicing this Smoke Offering will assist in cleansing you of all these visible and invisible obstacles.

To perform this ritual, the first thing you will need is a smoke offering burner (censer). (Grand Master picks up the incense burner.) This is the smoke offering burner for individual practice. For group practice, a bigger burner may be used. You may also use a horizontal censer, depending on what it is you are offering. What I have here today is a smoke offering burner used in Vajrayana practice. The lid can be uncovered for you to place the smoke offering inside. After lighting it, smoke will rise from the opening. As the smoke ascends, chant the mantras slowly, and perform the visualizations and the rest of the ritual steps.

To where does the smoke ascend. Firstly, if you are making an offering to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, perform this practice between 5 and 9 a.m. If you are making an offering to your karmic enemies and creditors, perform this practice between 5 and 9 p.m. This is the time requirement.

Tantric rules specify requisite items for the smoke offering.
1. Sandalwood incense powder and incense burner.
2. Flour that has been pan-fired without oil,to this you may use some milk powder, brown rice powder, peanut powder, bean powder, or five-grain powder.
3. A mixture of brown and white sugar.
4. Red, white, blue, green, and yellow fabric cut into small squares.
5. Fire starter or incense sticks for lighting.

The simplest offering can be made of flour, oats, brown rice powder, cream, and milk. You only need a tiny bit of milk and cream. After mixing these together, allow the mixture to dry, then light and burn it. With a burner like the one we have here, you can shape the offering into a round patty. For a horizontal censer, you can shape it into an elongated form.

While working to produce these smoke offerings, we should chant ``Om Ah Hum.`` ``Om`` is to transform the offerings into an infinite size filling the Universe; ``Ah`` is to purify the offerings; ``Hum`` is to enhance Dharma Taste. You also should chant ``Lang Yang Kang.`` ``Lang`` is the rising fire; ``Yang`` is the wind blowing away the smoke being generated; ``Kang`` disperses the smoke throughout the Universe. To reiterate, while preparing the offering, chant ``Om Ah Hum`` and ``Lang Yang Kang.``

When you are making the actual offering, form the Garuda Mudra. This symbolizes the smoke soaring and flying throughout the Universe undergoing transformations. If you are making the offering to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, place the censer at the shrine in front of the deities. If you are making the offering to your karmic enemies and creditors or obstructing ghosts and spirits, place the censer at the balcony where there is air ventilation. You want a well ventilated area so the smoke can circulate outside. At home, you will need open windows in your shrine room. You want the smoke to soar and occupy all empty space.

Similarly, as in our regular practice, we will perform the seven ritual steps: the Great Homage, the Mandala Offering, the Fourfold Refuge, the Armor Protection, the Hundred Syllable Mantra, the Four Immeasurable Vows, and so forth. The Four Immeasurable Vows are as follows:
``May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness; this is immeasurable loving-kindness. May all beings be liberated from suffering and the causes of suffering; this is immeasurable compassion. May all beings be free of suffering and always stay happy; this is immeasurable joy. May all beings be free of grasping and aversion and practice equality; this is immeasurable equanimity.``

After finishing the seven steps, visualize yourself transforming into the Personal Deity for this practice. The Personal Deity of the Smoke Offering practice is the Four-Armed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. The mantra of Four-Armed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva is ``Om Mani Padme Hum Seh.`` ``Seh`` is the seed syllable.

When you finish the seven preliminary steps, the smoke will already be rising up, and you can then perform both the visualization and the practice. If you are sitting in front of your shrine, do the smoke visualization in front of the Buddhas. If you are at the balcony, practice the visualization facing the balcony.

At the start of the Smoke Offering, visualize the manifestation of the Personal Deity: the appearance of a moon disc in the Empty Space before you, the emergence of the seed syllable ``Seh`` and its transformation into the Four-Armed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. From your heart chakra, a blue colored ``Hum`` syllable is emitted to transform into a hook that latches onto the Four-Armed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (from your crown opening) and lowers her to your heart chakra. You then transform into Four-Armed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. At this moment, you are Four-Armed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva.

To recapitulate: When you are done with the seven preliminaries, visualize the moon disc, the seed syllable ``Seh`` and its transformation into Four-Armed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva in the Empty Space. Then, visualize the seed syllable ``Hum`` in your heart emitting a blue light to guide and receive the Four-Armed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva to your crown to enter the lotus in your heart. Gradually this Four-Armed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva enlarges to the size of your body, and in a snap, you become Four-Armed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva.

After becoming Four-Armed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, you visualize emptiness. The mantra for the emptiness visualization is ``Om, si-ba-wa, su-da, sa-er-wa, da-er-ma, si-ba-wa, su-do-hang.`` This mantra transforms everything into emptiness. You are Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva sitting in emptiness. To strengthen this identity, chant ``Om Mani Padme Hum`` one hundred and eight times.

While you are dwelling on the vastness of Empty Space, visualize the smoke arising from the censer and filling the vastness of this space. The smoke also transforms into very subtle and wonderful clothing, foods and drinks, tools and equipments, houses, cars, refrigerators, and electrical appliances. All articles for use appear in your visualization: food, utensils and tools, exquisite clothing, and the five kinds of subtle offerings. You may also visualize the manifestation of jewels and gems filling up this Empty Space.

At this time, offer these items engendered in the smoke to all the ghosts, spirits, karmic enemies and creditors, and other beings who have negative affinities with you; so that after accepting your offerings, you will be left without hindrances and obstructions. Your undertakings will then be successful. All your karmic creditors, whether visible or invisible, will be positively influenced by your Smoke Offering.

At this time, while visualizing these offerings, snap your fingers seven times and chant this mantra, ``Om, Ah-bu-la-di, Pu-ba-yeh, So-ha.`` Chant this mantra seven times accompanied by finger snapping. Chant the mantra once and snap the fingers once.

``Om, Ah-bu-la-di, Pu-ba-yeh, So-ha.`` Snap once. ``Om, Ah-bu-la-di, Pu-ba-yeh, So-ha.`` Snap once. Repeat a total of seven times.

And the dedication verse. If you are making offerings to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, then you recite:
``These five amazing offerings, I sincerely render to all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Vajra Protectors, and Heavenly Beings through this smoke offering.``

If you are making offerings to karmic enemies and creditors, then you recite:
``These five amazing offerings, I sincerely render to Incense-Eating Deva Buduga, Kinnara and retinue, Five-Knots Incense-Eating Deva and retinue, Dragon Kings and Dragon Maidens, Mountain Devas, River Devas, Ocean Devas, and all Bardo beings and suffering beings. May their desires be fulfilled. May all Bardo beings be liberated from fear and suffering. May Buddhas of the Perfect Body bless me to quickly attain realization. Even if the power is not acquired yet, may Buddhas bless me to be delivered, despite all obstacles, by the merits of cultivation. I sincerely practice the supreme dharma.``

Finally, chant the Hundred Syllable Mantras three times. This remedies any deficiencies during the practice. I have read through the liturgies of the Smoke Offering quickly as it is a rather short practice. (Audience applause.)

When performing Tantric fire offerings, many practitioners find themselves called upon by fire trucks. Neighbors may become alarmed and notify the fire department since fire offerings generate quite a bit of smoke. Smoke offerings on the other hand offer a better solution and are suitable for individual as well as group practice.

How did this Smoke Offering transmission come about? On my last trip to Taiwan, I visited the Hualian Local Chapter and the East Ocean Local Chapter. At the East Ocean Local Chapter, I was asked to teach this practice, because it is one that can be performed by all students. Fire offerings are more difficult to conduct because their set-up requires more items than smoke offerings and they run the risk of alarming the fire department. This is the reason behind the transmission of the Smoke Offering Practice.

During the offering of smoke, form the Garuda Mudra. The Principal Deity of this practice is the Four-Armed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. The liturgy is very simple, but you must make sure that you have all the requisite items. The five colored cloths for example, enable all your karmic enemies and creditors to receive all the beautiful clothing you are offering. For this clothing to be beautiful and elegant, you must have all five colored fabrics. Do not forget the incense -sandalwood incense. Included in the smoke offerings is the five-grained powder. And why are white sugar and brown sugar required? They allow your creditors a taste of sweetness so that their hatred and enmities will be released.

Why are you failing in your career and your marriage? Why is your reputation suffering? Why is your business failing? These things happen because you have obstructions in both the visible and invisible worlds.

After performing the Smoke Offering, you will satisfy your karmic enemies in the way of food, clothing, housing, and transportation. As for transportation, let me teach you this. You can make a mini Ferrari, quite an expensive car, out of paper and place this in the censer. And houses? Visualize them as clearly as possible. And visualize the five colored cloths weaving themselves into beautiful clothing. As for food, visualize a variety of scrumptious foods appearing within the smoke offering.

Conduct the smoke offering practice to the Buddhas between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. and to the ghosts and spirits between 5p.m. and 9 p.m. In either case, the censer must be placed in a well ventilated area so the smoke can slowly disperse while you engage in the liturgical steps of the Great Homage, the Mandala Offering, the Fourfold Refuge, the Four Immeasurable Vows, the Armor Protection, and so forth.

The purpose of chanting the Four Immeasurable Vows is to offer them (referring to the ghosts and spirits) happiness and the mitigation of suffering, so that your offering will be accepted joyously. You endeavor to offer and bring them satisfaction. This is ``loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity.`` The most important step is to visualize yourself as the Four-Armed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva before making the offering. Although the censer may be small, visualize it to be as vast as the Universe. When the smoke arises, it is transformed into the best kind of offerings, jewels, treasures, and diamonds filling up all of the Empty Space. At this time, form the Garuda Mudra.

Listed here are two different mantras. The first is Tibetan mantra:
``Om, Ah-bu-la-di, Pu-ba-yeh, Soha.``

The second one is Chinese mantra:
``Om, Ah-bu-la-di, Pu-la-yeh, Soha.``

The mantras come from two different sources. I cannot say only one of them is correct. You may chant either one of them.

There is the snapping of the fingers seven times. ``Seven`` symbolizes completion and wholeness. All karmic enemies and creditors are wholly satisfied.

There are many benefits to performing the Smoke Offering. I myself have also conducted the Smoke Offering and although I encountered many obstacles, they were resolved and everything is fine. Wouldn`t you say that I have been dealt with many setbacks? Many! Yet everything is fine now. Why? It`s the Smoke Offering! Through this practice, your problems will be resolved. Also, solutions will come to you rather ingeniously. An obstacle may be right before you blocking your path, but like 007`s car, you will fly over it. If your car falls into the sea, it will become a submarine. When you are cornered, you will transform into a swirl of smoke and escape. Nobody will find you. The Smoke Offering can engender this kind of power.

Conduct the Smoke Offering and all your obstacles will be resolved. I have had many obstacles resolved. Every single karmic enemy or creditor coming before me accepts my offerings and departs. This is a very important practice. By making offerings to all ghosts and spirits and all karmic enemies and creditors, all obstacles in our path will recede and vanish. The Eight Supernatural Beings of Devas and Nagas will descend to protect and support you. I hope that after conducting this practice, every one of you will eliminate all obstacles and succeed in cultivation. Whether you are a home practitioner, a monk or a nun, if you have any supplications, do this Smoke Offering.

The important point here is, as a spiritual practitioner, to first help all karmic enemies and creditors recede so that you will achieve success in your spiritual practice. It is my blessing to everyone that all be auspicious. May auspiciousness be with you in daytime, night time, and all hours of the day. May there be Great Auspiciousness at all times.

Om Mani Padme Hum.
修煙供法成就 能心想事成

Translated by Janny Chow
Edited by Christine Chan
Proofread by Imelda Tan
True Buddha Translation Team

Grand Master Lu's Dharma Talk at Ling Shen Ching Tze Temple, Redmond, Washington, after Saturday Group Practice on March 15th 2008

Translated by Janny Chow
Edited by Christine Chan
Release Date: June 29, 2009

Successful Responses from Smoke Offerings
The Buddha has employed many expedient methods to help people of this world. Many expedient methods also exist in Tantrayana, like the Smoke Offering I transmitted recently. Many people have had positive responses from doing this practice that result in reinforcement of one’s faith. With stronger faith, you will engage in your practice more earnestly.

When Ms Organic, our translator at the temple, practiced her first Smoke Offering to bring enjoyment to all her karmic enemies, creditors, and friends, she had a good response. She had a vision and found that many people have descended upon her living room, wearing beautiful clothes and enjoying gourmet foods. They drove expensive cars and then returned to luxurious homes. It was like there was a huge party going on.

In Taiwan, another student, Hsu Hung-chun, whom Rev. Lianzhi is very familiar with, also had a positive response from the Smoke Offering practice. When I was living in seclusion in Taiwan, if I had even the slightest physical ailment, dharma brother Hsu Hung-chun, who owns a pharmacy and is knowledgeable about many medicines, would bring me remedies. This time Hsu Hung-chun, his wife, and his child came to Ling Shen Ching Tze Temple to receive the Smoke Offering Empowerment personally from me. When he returned to Taiwan, he immediately started the practice and on the day he conducted his first Smoke Offering Practice at the pharmacy, business tripled. When he took a day off from doing the practice, business would return to normal. Business owners must be happy to hear this and look forward to performing the Smoke Offering to bring in more business.

In fact, every time dharma brother Hsu does the Smoke Offering, many invisible beings are helping him. These beings are wishing to repay this pharmacist who has given them such good offerings. When an individual walks past the pharmacy, whether or not he may have been ill, he may suddenly find his throat scratchy and want to enter to purchase some cough medicine. Or, a sudden draft may make a pedestrian feel like he is coming down with a cold or feel as if he had sprained a limb so that he will go inside to get cold medicine, pain pills, or ointment. Or someone walking by may suddenly remember that he needed to refill his medicine cabinet. So, every time dharma brother Hsu practices the Smoke Offering, his business improves by three times. So, although the steps may be simple, this Smoke Offering Practice is indeed no simple matter! (Grand Master laughter.) When you receive responses from doing the practice, your faith will be reinforced.

More Responses from Smoke Offering – Healing and Litigation Dismissal
Dharma brother Lianhua Wentao is a student in China who used to be in the business of manufacturing fireworks. Most of the fireworks people light on the fourth of July are made in China, and he used to have a very good business exporting his products to the United States. Now, due to the many accidents caused by fireworks, many states have banned their sales. After the resulting decline in business, he switched to selling calling cards. He also came to Redmond recently to receive the Smoke Offering Empowerment directly from me. Upon arriving home, he started conducting the Smoke Offering practice and soon after, he saw a karmic enemy standing next to him, receiving the offering from him, and leaving. (audience applause) At the same time, he saw several spiders crawl out of the top of his head and many strange looking creatures exiting his body through his hair follicles. Suddenly, the illnesses and pains that used to afflict him were gone. And his business? At this point, we do not yet know its long term outcome. Nevertheless, he felt he had received positive responses from doing this practice.

Another student from the South Pacific, Lianhua Dongchu, had also come to Redmond to receive the Smoke Offering Empowerment. He had been involved in a lawsuit and lost his business. Due to a breach in contract with a large financial group, he was sued, lost his business, and sentenced to imprisonment. When he arrived home, he immediately carried out the Smoke Offering Practice. After conducting only one session of the Smoke Offering, that large financial group, on its own initiative, decided to have the lawsuit dismissed. After the second session of the practice, his prison term was lifted and, instead, he only had to pay a minor monetary penalty. He had broken several agreements in his contract and had been sued for each of them. His life would have been over. After the third session of the Smoke Offering, some partners from his former company regrouped and asked him to be their director. Although he no longer had any money, the partners were willing to put up money unconditionally and offer him the position. All these after just three sessions of the Smoke Offering. So, this Smoke Offering Practice is not a “simple” practice to be taken lightly. It is simply efficacious!

The Smoke Offering Helps One Find Employment
We know many people are having a hard time finding jobs in the Seattle area and in the United States. Everyone worries about the interview process. Here is a joke I may have told before. A man wanted to apply for a job as a hotel security guard. When the manager asked him if he had any experience, he replied that he of course had experience. He then took a look to his right and to his left, and saw a drunkard walking unsteadily towards him. Without saying a word, he ran toward the man, picked him up, tossed him on the ground and, with a kick, sent the man out the door. The applicant then turned to the manager and said, “Look, with all my experience, you should definitely hire me. I would like to meet with your director.” The manager then replied, “Well, that would be quite difficult, since the director was just kicked out the door.” (audience laughter.) What is the moral of this story? Had this applicant conducted the Smoke Offering before going for his interview, he would not have chanced upon the director and kicked him out! This practice may turn a seemingly unfortunate chance encounter into a serendipitous chain of events.

So, here in Seattle, whether you are looking for a job or looking for an employee --- the former likely more difficult --- how will you make this happen? You now have a good solution --- doing the Smoke Offering Practice. After conducting this practice, when you go in for your interview, many invisible beings will follow and help you. When the boss sees you, even if you are walking with a limp, you will remind him of his ex-girlfriend doing the Tango and he will find you appealing. In fact, many of the ladies at our temple here are quite past their prime, but if you all perform the Smoke Offering before an interview, when the interviewer sees you, he will find that you remind him of his mother. Although your face may be swollen with a double chin, there is no way he will not hire you.

Therefore, there are many benefits to doing the Smoke Offering, an expedient practice. From this practice you will strengthen your faith and your resolve to reach Enlightenment. Remember, every one of us starts out on the path of the Buddhadharma with so-called expedient methods pertaining to the mundane world. Nowadays, many temples, monks and nuns are helping sentient beings by employing expedient or skillful means. It is not possible to start off right away with the sacred methods. Use the worldly practices first to increase faith, then teach the next level of sacred Buddhadharma.


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